Stockport County v Leamington FC,Vanarama Conference North,Saturday 24th Jan 2015

Approximately One Hundred and Twenty people made the trip from Royal Leamington Spa to Stockport for what proved to be an interesting game which was undoubtably more entertaining for fans of the home side than the fans of the other club that plays in a lighter shade blue just up the road in the old athletics stadium.

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After a slight second half wobble County found some resilience to eventually bag the much needed three points to move up to ninth in the table and just two points of the playoffs while Leamington slipped into the relegation zone.

In the first half County came out of the traps flying and were keen to get themselves established,eventually all the pressing paid off as Jack Ryan tapped in the parried shot of Kristian Dennis on 11mins then on 26mins Dennis finally went one better as he put away Danny Glover’s cross to put County 2-0 up and the match looked pretty much to be going the way of the home side.

Leamington didn’t really get much chance in the first half,they almost came close when a Stephen Morley free kick finally tested keeper Danny Hurst who put it away for a corner.

HT Stockport County 2 Leamington FC 0

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Leamington manager Paul Holleran must have given his side the mother of all bollockings not seen since the fictional Mike Bassett berated his England squad when 2-0 down against Mexico, The away side were on a mission and with the threat of dropping into the drop area you can understand why.

Danny Newton pulled one back for Leamington on 55 mins when he struck from outside the box with a well timed shot that flew through the air and was out of reach from Danny Hurst who would have needed the arms of Inspector Gadget to catch the ball.

This gave Leamington renewed Hope and just twelve minutes later after holding off some Stockport attacks they levelled it on 69mins when Newton got his second goal after some sloppy defending led him to take advantage of a misplaced catch by Danny Hurst to make it 2-2.

County finally showed real character and hard work and persistence finally paid off when Greg Wilkinson scored his first County goal on 72 mins when he struck a gorgeous shot outside the area which flew in like the planes do when they go over the town on the approach to the airport runway.

After that the three points never looked in doubt and County got the Kenneth Wolstenholme moment on 90 mins when Chris Sharp got his sixth of the campaign to make it 4-2.

Full time Stockport County 4 Leamington FC 2.

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County manager Alan Lord will have been more relieved than pleased after this result, The home side could have capitalised a lot more in the first half but fair play to Leamington they fought hard in the second half and would be more than upset not to go away with at least a point,they face a real battle for the rest of the season but they have plenty of fighting spirit and will be up for the challenge.

Teams.

Stockport County

Hurst,Jacobs,Duxbury,Churchman,Lees (C),O’Halloran,Baker,Glover,Ryan,Dennis,Wilkinson.

Subs, Sharp (Ryan 59),Russell (Baker 74),Lofthouse (Glover 82) Fagbola,Ormson GK.

Leamington FC

Atkins,Mace,Morley (C),Magunda,Gordon,Langdon,Goddard,Fry,Newton,Hicks,Chilton

Subs,Moore,Fenney,Dodd,Edwards,Forsdick.

Att,2884.

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Haydock Park,Peter Marsh Chase Day,Saturday 17th January 2015

Thankfully after the planned early morning inspection wasn’t needed to pass the course as fit for racing,today’s top class jumping card went ahead.

Haydock must be in some sort of microclimate as all this weeks snow and heavy rain that has been battering the country somehow avoided this neck of the woods for a competitive seven race card on ground that was Heavy and in all Chases the first fence down the back was omitted.

Conditions though were very tough for horse,jockey and racegoer with hail coming in at various points of the afternoon even when racing was occurring on the squelchy mud splattered turf, Only the true and stupid fans were paddock side here after seemingly taking advice from Andy McNab and Sir Ranulph Fiennes on how to go racing in adverse conditions!

On then racing front we had four Grade 2 races with the two feature events being the Peter Marsh Chase and before that the Champion Hurdle Trial that featured an appearance from The New One as he had his final prep race before the festival on what was billed as “The Road To Cheltenham”

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12.20 Ideal Recruit Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,3m,12 flights,4yo+ (0-140)

Experience over Youth here as the 11yo Barafundle rolled back the years under Jason Maguire to get the better of the novice Milansbar by a length, always up in the van guard this lightly raced elder making only his 18th start in all battled on and just held off the challenge from his younger counterpart, American Life back in third looks to be coming back to his early self.

This was his first win since 2010 and fully deserved,no doubt he will turn out in the Pertemps here next month and the 3m hurdle in May,he’s not getting any younger but still enjoys his racing.

12.55 CE Facilities Novices’ Chase,Grade 2,2m5f,14 fences,5yo+

The race finally got underway after the horses and officials got moved to the correct start,the riders did get to the 2m5f start but today’s chases used the outer turn which add an extra half furlong per circuit otherwise it could have ended up being run over 2m6f! When they arrived the race got started by flag like a Point.

Just the four here but it was a fine front running performance by the Sue Smith trained 6yo Wakanada who went one better than his last run when beaten in a Grade 2 at Doncaster.

Making all he jumped ok and despite running down some fences which hampered some of the others he was always in command, Cogry came second but was one paced behind the winner,Colour Squadron in third is a perennial loser but always runs a sound and honest race.

As for Wakanada he could go to Cheltenham but an easier option would be the Future Stars race at Ayr in April or maybe the Manifesto at Aintree.

Odds on favourite Close Touch in the colours of The Queen trailed in last,this was a case of the ‘bounce’ factor,he is clearly better than this and can be forgiven, The owner didn’t turn up today,I think she may have other things on her mind at the moment!

Close Touch.

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1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 2,2m,9 flights,4yo+

Unlike his previous win at Taunton over Christmas the winner Aso from the Venetia Williams stable actually had to jump some hurdles today under Liam Treadwell, taking over from pace setter Kiama Bay he worked hard to record a nice 4.5 length success, back in third was Qewy in the Bloomfields colours,this was his debut over hurdles and has a bit of ability in this sphere.

Aso looks a lovely horse and should take his chance in the Supreme but he will be an even better chaser when he goes over the birch.

Kiama Bay showed his 25-1 odds when he fell here in November was no fluke,he is suited by sharper tracks and is a useful yardstick.

Below,Aso

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2.05 The StanJames.Com Champion Hurdle Trial,Grade 2,2m.9 flights,4yo+

For once this race had a Champion Hurdle contender but it was far from a convincing performance from The New One who despite going off the 1-6 favourite certainly didn’t win like one should.

This is the worst I’ve seen him jump in the five times I have seen him race in the flesh,he went out to his right a few times and clattered a few like a poor novice would, On viewing you would not be rushing to back him for the Cheltenham showpiece after this.

Coming up the straight Bertimont took the bull by the horns as Harry Skelton for his brother Dan adopted the ‘Don’t be put off by one horse’ theory and got first run with two flights to go and was still two lengths in front over the final hurdle before Sam Twiston Davies rallied The New One to finally get up in the last half furlong to land the £32,685 prize.

I have always said that The New One is better suited by 2m4f and shall remain defiant, If this race was being played in the stables at Willie Mullins and Jessica Harrington’s yard this afternoon then I bet Faugheen,Hurricane Fly and Jezki wouldn’t have been that worried.

Bertimont ran a fine race in defeat and while the Champion Hurdle would be too much I’d imagine races like the County Hurdle and the Scottish Champion Hurdle would be better.

Below,The New One.

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2.40 888sport Graduation Chase,Class 2,2m5f,14 fences,5yo+

Another win for Sue Smith here as Mwaleshi made all and never saw another horse from the tape being released.

Favourite Carraig Mor could never land a blow and was in trouble turning for home,his fall over at Kempton on Boxing Day looks to have dented his confidence while Third Intention took an early tumble and had a gentle jog on his own coming home on the flat course.

Mwaleshi looked to stay this extra trip quite well,second place Maggio saves his best for Kelso and should be back there in March for a 2m7f Listed Chase and he just hung on from Little Glenshee who was staying on under beaten horses.

3.15 Peter Marsh Chase,Grade 2,Ltd Hcap,3m1f,16 fences,5yo+

This was a real brutal race from the outset with no quarter given and a generous pace even in the testing conditions as the twelve runners battled their way way around the course.

Last year the prize went to Wales and this year it was Scotland who took it as Samstown just hung on from Benbens who was flying at the end and went down by a neck for the Alistair Whillans yard in Hawick.

Vintage Star was twenty four lengths back in third and he was so tired that he was walking over the line at the finish with Toby Lerone behind him.

It will be hard to work out the form of this race as it was run under testing conditions, Samstown was rumoured to be coming back here next month for the Grand National Trial over 3m5f.

3.50 Lynk FM “Fixed Brush” Novices’ Hurdle,Class 4,2m4f,10 flights,4-7yo

Just a turnout of three but they came from England,Scotland and Wales with Scotland coming out on top as One For Arthur from Lucinda Russell’s yard had a real battle down the straight with long time leader Subtle Grey who was giving the winner 6lbs which told in the conditions.

Both horses look ok,One For Arthur jumped these hurdles quite well and could be up for a step in Grade while Subtle Grey from the McCains will be better when sent over fences.

An interesting day to say the least here,It’s still a long time to the Festival and anything can happen until then.

Many eyes will have been on The New One today,it’s still up in the air if he can go close in the Champion Hurdle, my instinct after today is no.

One highlight was myself getting a photo with a female jockey,today I managed to use my charm for Gemma Gracey-Davison.

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Next week I should be at a football match,racing wise it will be Warwick all being well for Kingmaker Day.

Until next time Goodbye and pleas keep reading and retweeting.

Warwick Races,Betfred Classic Chase Day,Saturday 10th January 2015

It was Warwick’s big raceday of their season and despite the very windy conditions the show carried on in what was traditional jump racing conditions.

The rain during the week thankfully didn’t mean that any obstacles had to be bypassed on what was Soft ground.

Some good racing was on offer with a real mix of races to challenge even the most bravest of punters.

Feature races included the Grade Two Leamington Hurdle and the Grade Three Classic Chase on what is Channel 4s only visit here when they bring the lorry up the M40

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12.45 Betfred Goals Galore Novices’ Handicap Hurdle,Class 4,2m,8 flights,4yo+ (0-110)

Not the best of openers which went to local trainer Ben Case with the 6yo Vesuvhill who took full advantage of Avel Vor making a mistake at the second last which knocked the stuffing out of him and this allowed the winner to close up and go on after the last

This was a lot better from the winner who hasn’t show that much this season but going handicapping helped him, Avel Vor is consistent but has an allergy to winning races over here since joining the Hobbs team from France.

1.20 Betfred ‘January Sale’ Handicap Chase,Class 3,2m,12 fences,5yo+ (0-135)

Run for the Edward Courage Cup the trophy had a quick break from the Venetia Williams yard to promptly go back again after Upepito got his first win on British soil on his third start under Liam Treadwell.

Coming to the second last fence it was Keel Haul who led under James Davies from three out but then he had a quick look behind him and noticed Upepito was bearing down on him and wore him down in the last half furlong to get on top.

Upepito is getting the hang of things over British fences and could be aimed at something like the Grand Annual or the Red Rum Chase later in the spring

Favourite Greywell Boy was in third and still looks held by the handicapper.

1.55 Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices’ Chase,Listed,3m110yds,5yo+

Elevated to Listed status this race had plenty of progressive young staying steeplechasers in the line up including last years Leamington Hurdle winner Deputy Dan.

The pace was fairly decent from the outset and Grand Vision took them along making some real stag leaps as he attacked the fences with relish, a few of them made mistakes on a track where you certainly can’t afford to.

Turning for home Grand Vision had three behind him,Deputy Dan,Mosspark and Sego Success who were all being pushed along then after two out Sego Success took dead aim at the leader and went in front at the final fence and kept up to his work to score, Grand Vision stayed on in second and Deputy Dan was third.

Sego Success was being talked about going for the Four Miler at the Festival, he certainly looks like being aimed at races like the Welsh National next season and is a stayer who works hard.

Grand Vision has ability but maybe better going into a handicap and Deputy Dan who was giving the field 4lb ran well considering but could be better dropped on distance.

Below,Sego Success

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2.25 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,3m2f,12 flights,5yo+

Another qualifier in this popular series which saw eleven go to post with the top eight finishers guaranteed to be entered in the final at the Thursday of the Festival,this qualifier was very competitive.

Jonjo O’Neill’s resurgence from a lean spell continues as Join The Clan gave Patrick Cowley (7) his first win as a jockey as he sleuced home here,taking over from long time leader Closing Ceremony who was coming here from two previous Haydock wins, the winner was always travelling well and recorded a 3.75 length win.

Join The Clan should turn up for the final and could be in the shake up,Closing Ceremony ran a game race in defeat and will make a nice chaser next season, Vandross ran a PB here but needs to be found the ideal trip for him to win.

Only six completed with the others being Top Wood,Handazan and Big Hands Harry who all qualify for the final.

3.00 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle,Grade 2,2m5f,11 flights,5yo+

Plenty of good potential on show here in a race that has a rich illumine of top class horses taking it on their way to even bigger days.

The short priced favourite for this was the Warren Greatrex trained Shantou Bob but he was never travelling well and apparently bled from the nose prior to the race,he is much better than this and came home third just over nine lengths behind the first two home.

At the business end it was Dan Skelton who trains locally in Alcester who secured the prize but he had a real battle on his hands as Three Musketeers held off the danger of Ballagh.

The winner travelled and jumped well under brother Harry Skelton,he is reported to be missing Cheltenham and going to Aintree instead either for the 2m4f or 3m novice event there, He is only a 5yo so could go down the staying hurdle route unless they embark on a chasing career.

Ballagh in second cost £125,000 after winning a Navan bumper, he should pick up a novice soon and looks a good purchase for Ben Case.

3.35 Betfred Classic Chase (Hcap) Grade 3,3m5f,22 fences,5yo+

A real wide open looking marathon contest with a few former winners of this race including some wily old veterans and developing stayers.

Fourteen went to post for this and only seven completed and yet again like so many big chases this season it was the Paul Nicholls yard to took another Classic Chase this time with Hawkes Point who was last sighted pulling up in the Welsh National and the application of first time blinkers worked the oracle.

Despite being a 10yo he is very lightly raced and this was only his eleventh start over fences, he travelled sweetly throughout the race and was happy under Sam Twiston Davies as the race unfolded.

It paid to be prominent in this race,last years winner and eventual third Shotgun Paddy was up with the pace ran his best race of the season, Theatrical Star came second today,he seems to reserve his best for tracks in the West Country so was probably bewildered by the Brummie ones today,he has a nice race in him somewhere

Fourth placed Sixty Something ran well but may be better down in trip and looks ideal for the Grimthorpe at Doncaster, Carruthers came a distant fifth but could be better in Veterans chases.

The favourite Return Spring was always struggling in this and needs more time and a drop back to novice events,maybe even a return to hurdles will help.

As for Hawkes Point this was a much deserved win for him,he was down the field at Aintree last year so maybe Ayr will be a better option

Below,Hawkes Point.

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4.05 Betfred TV “Newcomers” National Hunt Flat Race,Class 6,2m,4-6yo

The traditional closing race of the day,the ‘Wood Ditton Bumper’ had a steady enough pace but the finish involved two horses who were still as green as the Incredible Hulk is when he gets his winter energy bill!

Phillip Hobbs finally got a winner as the mare Copper Kay responded to the challenge of the Alan King trained Big Chief Benny to hold of by 1.5 lengths.

Real Gone Kid was 18 lengths third bit could not respond to the injection of pace from the front two, fourth went to George Herbert who made a fair amount of the running and will have learnt a lot.

Hard to know what to make but the first two look ok and should have a future when sent hurdling in time.

A top day of racing then with a few clues for Cheltenham and Aintree hopefully discovered for the festivals.

Warwick once again put on a good show and it’s always good to be here for their big day in the sun.

Next Saturday it’s Haydock with the Peter Marsh Chase and Champion Hurdle Trial although given the various weather forecast for Northern England that could but hopefully not change.

Till next week,Goodbye and a belated Happy New Year to you all.

Merseyside Cross Country Championships,Saturday 3rd January 2015

The 22nd Annual Cross Country Championships for clubs who are affiliated to the Merseyside CAA took place on a very cold,damp,drenched and eventually sunny afternoon in the delights of Sherdley Park just down the road from St Helens, the home of Super League and Glass!

Course wise it comprised of a long straight which had the starting area and an Aintree style elbow for the finishing mixed in with some real uphill and downdale sections that were almost roller coaster like in that the athletes had to work hard for the climb ups and then coast down which was sometimes tricky as the course got heavier thought the day, The uphill sections were so tough it made the ones at Carlisle,Cheltenham and Towcester seem like a gentle stroll in the valley!

Their was also a real heavy area near the skate park which was one the places to be during the day as the racing progressed.

Also five other clubs from outside Merseyside had runners today but they would not have been part of the actual Championship, they were from Leeds City AC,Hallamshire Harriers,Scarborough AC,Spectrum Striders and Warrington AC

Below,Course Map

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In the Junior races that began the day we had first the U9-10 Boys and Girls race over 1.5km,these were not Championship races but a good chance for the younger brigade to experience a big race day, The girls were led home by T Dentith of Liverpool Harriers and the boys had a 1-2 for Southport & Waterloo with Sam Coupland and R Davies doing the honours.

G 9 ran,B 15 ran

U13 Girls and Boys races followed over 3km,firstly the Girls had a whitewash here with a 1-2-3 for Liverpool Harriers in Ella McNiven,winning time of 11m.58,Katie Miller and Niamh Donnelly getting the medals while the Boys race was a 1-2 for Wirral Athletics Club and runners J Quarmby and Thomas Clark coming home in 11m41 and 12m19

G 25 ran,B 20 ran

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On to the U15 Girls and Boys then,they had 4km to cover this time, Once again it was a pure demolition job by Liverpool Harriers who this time got the 1-2-3-4 as Emily Gray led them home with Lucy Miller,Bethan Strange and Jessica Cook filling the placing,winning time of 15m28.

The Boys event had Daniel Slate for Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton AC wining comfortably, he pulled away from the field at halfway and took it in a canter of 13m15,Joseph Ford and Matthew Richardson got the other medals.

G 15 ran,B 28 ran

U17 and U20Women went off together as they covered the same distance of 4.6km,The U17 was in the hands of Rosie Johnson of a Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton and a time of 17m55s,as she battled through the now tough conditions as the rain made the course even heavier, the pursuers of Sophie Tarver and Hannah Delaney could not keep up with her as much as they tried to, The U20s only had three in it and E Kearney of Wirral AC took this easily in 19m exactly.

Below,Rosie Johnson,race action

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Under 17 Men’s race over 6km was in essence a match race between Liverpool Harriers and Wirral AC as they were the only two clubs who declared runners here in a field of 11.

From the claxon we had two from each club who opened up from the rest as they went through halfway and going on the second downhill section of the course James Taylor of Wirral AC began to ascend and took victory in the end with a time of 21m36 from Thomas Rogerson of Liverpool H and Tom Clarke also of Liverpool H in third place, Clarke in third was very lucky as fourth placed Alex McBain of Wirral was chasing him down but to no avail.

Below,Halfway in the U17

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W U17/20 9 Ran, B U17 10 Ran

The U20M was a 1-2-3 for Liverpool Harriers and not for the first time today too! Matthew Shirling took over the lead on the second lap and won easily from Daniel Jarvis who led over the first lap and a bit, Gregory Cooke kept the tricast up,Shirling won this in 26m13

M U20 9 Ran

So to the big two races of the day,firstly the Senior Women’s and they had a gruelling 8km to cover on a very churned and poached in places course.

This was without doubt the best race of the whole meeting for me, After the start the field got slowly whittled down and we had a leading group of four women who looked to be sticking the old Grand National method of “Hunt round the first circuit” before playing athletes on the second.

The group of Jenny Clague and Sophie Whiteside (Liverpool H), Alex O’Brien (Liverpool Running Club) and H Langham (Leeds AC) had opened up a nice lead from Catherine Howard (Knowsley H) going out into the country and half way on the last lap Whiteside had began to turn the screw on the other three and opened up a slight leade, Clague followed and they began to open up a nice gap from the other two.

Passing the skate part where I was watching Howard began to sense a medal chance and knowing a win was not going to happen found extra and closed up on the other two in third and fourth.

At the business end Whiteside came home first nicely ahead of teammate Clague and recorded a time of 31m33 while Howard ran her heart out and had the third spot which is what she fully deserved after that run.

Below,Setting off

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Leading Group

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Whiteside ahead of Clague

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Whiteside wins.

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Brown gets a well earned third

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Ladies 1-2-3 Medals.

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At end of the race their was a sort of stewards enquiry,When I was making my notes at the finish point I heard an athlete who turned out to be Sallie Holt of Wallasey who admitted to the people at the finishing funnel that she took the wrong course so was removed from the final results, When I was out in the country for a few races I did notice a few runners almost go the wrong way so had to do a bit of arm waving and shouting which did the trick.

W 37 Ran

The Senior Men’s race over 12km was a mere formality for winner Richard Burney of Liverpool Harriers in 40m22,the only other athletes he passed were the ones that he lapped, J Donnelly of Wirral AC ran a good race in second but he was never going to catch the winner as was third place Patrick Vis of Southport Waterloo.

Below,Burney on his way to the win.

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An easy win.

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M 96 Ran

A very enjoyable post New Year event then here in Sherdley Park, I must give thanks to St Helens MBC for allowing the use of the park and the host club St Helens Sutton AC for being the hosts.

I only had one gripe and that there was no on site refreshment area for the supporters to get a brew but as many of us have ate and drank a bit over the festive period it wad probably not that bad and a chance to detox a bit!

All being well next Saturday will be Classic Chase Day at Warwick,the next athletics event will be the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham next month.

Until next time, Happy New Year to you all.